We talk a lot about security and safety at schools on this blog. Today I want to talk about lab safety at schools.
The Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (put out jointly by the Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, Department of Justice, FBI, and Department of Health and Human Services) considers accidental gas leaks and laboratory spills as “technological hazards” and toxic materials present in laboratories as a “biological hazard”. This means that a truly thorough emergency operations plan should take laboratory safety into account.
The five pillars of preparedness include:
In terms of lab safety, common hazards include:
- chemical burns
- toxic fumes
- skin lacerations
- thermal burns
Common lab methods of prevention and protection can cover many of the common hazards. For example, safety goggles as a method of protection will help shield the eyes from fire, explosions, burns, fumes, and lacerations. Gloves can help shield the hands from chemical burns, although they may not be enough to prevent lacerations or protect against thermal burns.
As you think about lab safety and preparedness, make sure to take all five facets of preparedness in to account for all categories of hazards. In other words, you need prevention for fire, explosions, burns, fumes, and lacerations. You need protection for fire, explosions, burns, fumes, and lacerations. You need mitigation techniques for fire, explosions, burns, fumes, and lacerations. You need response protocols for fire, explosions, burns, fumes, and lacerations. And you need recovery protocols for fire, explosions, burns, fumes, and lacerations.
Of course middle and high school labs are usually vastly different from university research labs, and preparedness will look different. With that said, the goal of this blog post is to remind the reader that school safety plans should include lab safety.
Some resources for those of you wanting to do further research on this topic: